Last updated 11/29/06
Religion may be studied in a number of different ways. Religious studies of religion, conducted within a particular religious tradition, typically take for granted the validity of basic religious assumptions, often on the basis of a sacred text or texts. Religious traditions may also be studied empirically in a sociological or anthropological manner. The sociologist of religion records the beliefs and practices that make up particular religious traditions, often comparing distinct traditions to one another. Like the sociologist, the philosopher of religion may approach a religious tradition without taking its core assumptions for granted, but the focus of the philosopher is not so much the description of religious beliefs and practices as an investigation of their meaning and justification. To that end, in this class we will examine several different philosophical conceptions of the basis of religion, asking such questions as: Can religious belief be rationally justified? Does religion require a rational justification? How is faith related to reason?
Louis Pojman. Philosophy of Religion, Mayfield Publishing Company, 2001.
Soren Kierkegaard Fear and Trembling, Penguin Classics, 1986.
Paul Tillich The Dynamics of Faith, Harpercollins, 1986.
Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs, Riverhead Books, 1997.
Preparation: This course focuses on reading, writing, and discussion. As such, it is critical that each student read the assigned material before class.
Participation and Attendance (5%): Attendance and participation in discussions are expected.
Reading journal (15%): A journal summarizing and evaluating each of the course readings will be turned in the first class of each month. The format for journal entries is available here.
Presentations (5% each = 10%): Each student will make two informal presentations to the class. The presentations will relate course texts to religious denominations, practices, events, history, sacred texts, etc. A one to two page paper on the topic will be turned in the day of the presentation.
Midterm Exam (15%): The essay format exam will be given after we conclude the Pojman book.
Research Project (25%): An approximately twelve page research paper and presentation will be due the last week of the semester, with presentations beginning Monday, November 28th. The research projects will explore themes from the Pojman book. Topics are due October 2nd and a rough draft is due for peer review October 30th. The final draft will be due the day the paper is presented to the class.
Peer Reviews (5% each = 10%): Each student will write two approximately two page reviews of work by their peers. The reviews will briefly summarize the main point of the paper and evaluate the author's philosophical arguments and use of research materials.
Final Exam (20%): The exam is comprehensive and essay format.
We will consider a variety of points of view in this course, some of which are favorable to religion and others of which are not. The purpose of our investigations is to explore, as openly and objectively as we can, the philosophical justification for the views presented in the course texts. In this process, neither the truth nor the falsity of any specific religious faith or text will be taken for granted. In short, as noted above, ours will be a philosophical study of religion, not a religious study of religion. This is not to deny the possibility of the latter form of study, but to insist on an open-minded attitude that is both fair and slow to take offense.
Reasonable accommodations will be made upon request for students with documented disabilities.
Dr. Kimbrough's homepage.